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Augusta, Ga. - Despite calls that he disqualify himself from the 2013 Masters, Tiger Woods showed up for his third-round tee time at 1:45 p.m. Saturday, bombed a 3-wood down the middle of the fairway and started a brisk walk down the hill to his ball.
Controversy? What controversy?
Woods, a four-time Masters champion, and the tournament's competition committee found themselves in the middle of a firestorm Saturday after the committee decided against disqualifying Woods for taking an illegal drop on the par-5 15th hole during his second round. Officials did assess the world's No. 1 player a 2-stroke penalty.
Fred Ridley, the committee chairman, said his group reviewed the tape of the drop before Woods finished his round Friday and decided he did nothing wrong. However, he said the committee wanted to speak with Woods after hearing his post-round comments that he had dropped "a couple of yards away" from the original spot.
The committee penalized Woods for violating Rule 26-1(a) because he did not drop "as near as possible" to the original spot. He was not disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard thanks to Rule 33-7, which protects a player who did not know he violated a rule before signing his scorecard, and later was reported to have done so by people watching on television.
Ridley said it would have been "grossly unfair" to disqualify Woods, and said the issue "was not even on the table" when he met with Woods on Saturday morning.
"I didn't see anything and he didn't tell me anything that would lead me to believe that he knowingly violated the rule," he said.
Woods, who fired a 2-under-par 70 and will begin the final round trailing co-leaders Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera by four strokes, said he never thought about withdrawing "because under the rules of golf ... I'm abiding by the rules.
"They made the determination that nothing had happened," he told CBS-TV's Bill Macatee. "After what I had to say, they said I had a 2-shot penalty. Now it's time to play."
CBS commentator Nick Faldo called on Woods to disqualify himself Saturday morning in an appearance on The Golf Channel, saying the controversy would leave "a mark on his career, his legacy, everything."
However, Faldo softened his comments considerably once the CBS telecast took the air. Later he said that he and "other old pros" felt anyone signing an incorrect scorecard should be disqualified, but that "new rules" protected players who didn't realize they had broken a rule.
Woods explained he was a "little ticked" after watching his third shot on 15 ricochet off the flagstick and into the pond guarding the front of the green.
"I was just trying to figure that I need to take some yardage off this (next) shot," he said. "That's all I was thinking about and evidently, it was pretty obvious, I didn't drop in the right spot."
The penalty gave Woods a triple-bogey 8 on the hole, and he began the third round at 1-under par rather than 3-under.
Ridley said members of his committee reviewed Woods' drop after receiving a telephone call from a viewer and decided that the player had acted properly. He said Woods was not informed of the review at the time he signed his scorecard because no violation was found.
However, he said he was informed Friday night of Woods' post-round comments about his drop, which "raised some concerns in our minds." Woods came in around 8 a.m. for a meeting and the committee assessed the penalty but no disqualification.
"It was really a matter of understanding what was going through his mind and what his intent was in playing his shot to determine whether he was going to get a penalty at all," Ridley said. "At that point it was either no penalty or a 2-shot penalty, but disqualification was not even on the table."
Pressed on the matter, Ridley said because the committee initially had made a decision of a legal drop, then Woods "was entitled to the benefit of that decision when he signed his scorecard" even if he did not know what it was.
Ridley said the world's governing bodies of the game were kept informed of the process and "are in agreement with our decision."